The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is hosting the fourth annual Psychedelic Science Conference next week in Denver, Colorado. The conference includes five days of scientific presentations, workshops, and other mental health related events. With ten thousand people expected to attend, and over three hundred speakers, this will be the largest psychedelic conference in history, and an incredible opportunity to learn the latest research directly from the source. Researchers, practitioners, thought leaders, and therapists will gather to share insights and findings related to developments in psychedelics as tools for healing and mental health. Cindy and I are excited to attend and gather knowledge as it relates to ketamine therapy and other modalities, and explore new tools and practices to bring back to Innerbloom Ketamine Therapy.
Today, I will briefly review the history of the conference and share the upcoming sessions and exhibits that I am most looking forward to. Additionally, I will highlight some important names and qualifications of the speakers.
First held in Oakland, California in 2017, the inaugural Psychedelic Science Conference had over three thousand researchers, activists, and attendees from forty-two countries. Hosted by MAPS and the Beckley Foundation, the community came together to explore new research on the benefits and risks of MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ketamine, ibogaine, marijuana, and more.
MAPS was founded by Rick Doblin, Ph.D. in 1986 and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization specializing in research and education. “Our work develops medical, legal, and cultural shifts so people can benefit from the careful use of psychedelics and marijuana for mental health, well-being, and connection”.
The Beckley Foundation was founded in 1998 by English drug policy reformer and lobbyist Amanda Feilding. The Beckley Foundation’s purpose includes scientifically investigating the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain to understand its benefits, while minimizing potential harm. Additionally, the Beckley Foundation strives to achieve global drug policy changes to “reduce harms brought about by the unintended negative consequences of current drug policies; and develop improved policies based on health, harm reduction, cost-effectiveness, and human rights”.
In addition to its potential for healing, I have seen first-hand how ketamine ‘journeys’ (often described as spiritual and mystical), can facilitate personal growth to enhance the human experience. I am excited to learn how other medicine, specifically psilocybin, (with its use dating back at least to 500 BC) can have similar effects.
I am fascinated to dive into the latest research exploring the efficacy and safety of psychedelics such as N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) for treating psychospiritual and existential distress in advanced cancer and end-of-life palliative care. My experience as a general and trauma surgeon, along with exposure to many end-of-life situations, which involved surgery for advanced malignancies (i.e., colon, breast, and skin/melanoma), has taught me that novel therapies for treating emotional suffering near the end of life are much needed.
The use of substances such as psilocybin and Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) at a subperceptual levels, (called microdosing) has become a hot topic of discussion in the mental health community and has also peaked our interest at Innerbloom. Presented by Dr. James Fadiman, someone most would argue is the “father of micodosing”, he is expected to share his knowledge of using very low-dose psychedelics for the treatment of anxiety, depression, stress, migraines, pain, and more.
In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) for the treatment of PTSD. A phase 3 clinical trial of MDMA-assisted therapy for patients with severe, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder has found that the drug is indeed an effective treatment, with more than 50% of the participants who received MDMA no longer qualifying for a PTSD diagnosis.
Anorexia Nervosa is the single mostly deadly psychiatric disorder; thus, it will be interesting to learn the implications of using MDMA for individuals who suffer from difficult-to-treat eating disorders.
I am a firm believer that ketamine and other psychedelic may have beneficial effects even for people who do not suffer directly from mental illness. These medicines have the ability to bring about different perspectives and enhance life for those seeking a ‘positive shift’. At Innerbloom, we have witnessed artists, musicians, athletes, and entrepreneurs endorse improvements in their performance and everyday life. So, of course, Cindy and I are both excited to hear this topic discussed. Furthermore, the speaker is the New York Jets football quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, so at the very least, it is sure to be entertaining.
Divorce rates in the United States are roughly 35-50% for first marriages, while second marriages have a higher divorce rate of 60-70%. Since marital problems are such a wide-spread and common issue, these novel methods and tools that extend beyond talk-therapy are very exciting. MDMA, sometimes called ‘the love drug’ is now being researched for a number of social and emotional-based uses such as assisted couples therapy. I am eager to learn how this medicine, among other psychedelics, can offer the means to enhance and sustain a loving and intimate relationship.
Thought leader, podcaster (The Tim Ferris Show), and author of five #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, (including The 4-Hour Workweek) is sure to be a thought-provoking speaker. I certainly did enjoy his interview with Dr. John Krystal — All Things Ketamine, The Most Comprehensive Podcast Episode Ever (#625).
Known as the "Queen of Ketamine", Dr. Bennett has spent over twenty years studying the applications of ketamine and has contributed extensive research on best use of ketamine as a therapeutic tool for healing. Dr. Bennett first came to my attention when she was featured in Morris Hamilton’s docuseries called Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia as he journeyed through the history, chemistry, and societal impacts of the world's most extraordinary drugs.
Dr. Carhart-Harris, Head of The Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and Director of Psychedelics Division, Neuroscape, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is one of the most instrumental pioneers in the study of psychedelics. As an author or co-author of over one hundred and fifty publications, it goes without saying that Dr. Carhart-Harris has an extensive knowledge base and a lot to wisdom to share about the science, safety, and appropriate use of psychedelics. He was recently invited as a guest speaker on my current favorite podcast, The Huberman Lab. Watch an interview with neuroscientist Andrew Huberman on the topic of psychedelics such as psilocybin, for mental health.
Dr. Grob is professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He has conducted clinical research with psychedelics for over thirty years, and notably has investigated the use of psilocybin for cancer patients and end-of-life palliative care. When asked during a recent interview about what ‘magic mushrooms’ can offer to end-of-life patients, Dr. Grob stated “at the end of life, an individual’s sense of self starts to erode. He or she loses connection with the person he’s always, or she’s always, been. Psilocybin appears to reconnect them and instill a renewed sense of meaning and purpose into their lives even with a limited time span remaining. Individual experiences vary, but the outcomes are fairly consistent: they have a restored sense of self, and a restored sense of meaning and purpose to their lives”.
As a psychiatrist and Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Gukasyan focuses on the feasibility and efficacy of novel treatment strategies including psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for mood, addictive, and eating disorders. I first had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Gukasyan after she gave a captivating presentation at the 2022 American Society of Ketamine Physicians, Psychotherapists & Practitioners in Austin, Texas. I was enthralled by her research and passion in the field of mental health, specifically the use of psychedelics for healing.
Cindy and I are certainly in for treat at the upcoming Psychedelic Science Conference in Denver, Colorado. It is wonderful to see that after several decades of suppression, neglect, and mistrust, psychedelics are having a renaissance. We are excited to meet inspiring practitioners, scientists, and public figures who are paving the way to ensure that psychedelics have a foothold in the future of mental health treatment.
During what some would consider the most memorable session at the 2017 conference, Tom Insel, MD, the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, had this to say when asked what advice he would give to everyone in the room, “Don’t screw this up. There may be lots of promise here. It’s really easy to forget about issues related to safety, issues related to rigor, issues related to reputational risks.” The team at Innerbloom understands the importance of continuing education and staying abreast of the latest research. It is our intention to acquire new knowledge as it relates to psychedelics for treatment of mental illness and translate that into our practice to better serve our beloved community of San Luis Obispo.
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